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1 Closing the Gaps by 2015: Pathways to Excellence 2004 Governing Board Conference Houston, Texas December 9, 2004 Pathways to Excellence: Learning Communities.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Closing the Gaps by 2015: Pathways to Excellence 2004 Governing Board Conference Houston, Texas December 9, 2004 Pathways to Excellence: Learning Communities."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Closing the Gaps by 2015: Pathways to Excellence 2004 Governing Board Conference Houston, Texas December 9, 2004 Pathways to Excellence: Learning Communities Enhance Undergraduate Student Success Dr. Maggy Smith, Dean msmith@utep.edu University College The University of Texas at El Paso

2 2 Growth of Learning Communities in Higher Education Paradigm shift in higher education (1920s) -From focus on teaching to focus on learning -From individual construction of knowledge to social construction of knowledge Changing financial picture of higher education (1980s) –Shrinking budgets –Retention buzz

3 3 Learning Communities: Definition and Salient Characteristics A Learning Community Centers on a vision of faculty and studentsand sometimes administrators, staff, and the larger communityworking collaboratively toward shared, significant academic goals in environments in which competition, if not absent, is at least de-emphasized. In a learning community, both faculty and students have the opportunity and the responsibility to learn from and help each other. (University of Miami, 1998)

4 4 Eight Characteristics of Learning Communities Organize faculty and students into smaller groups -Co-enrollment in defined set of classes Encourage integration of the curriculum -LCs address the fragmentation of general education requirements -Curricular structures allow for interdisciplinary teaching and learning -Students see individual courses as part of a larger integrated learning experience Help students establish academic and social support networks -Academic and social support inside and outside the classroom -Peer group impact on identification, affiliation, and acceptance -Development of attitudes, values, expectations, and practices regarding their roles as students

5 5 Provide a setting for students to be socialized to the experiences of college What does it mean to become/be a college student? Integrating with peers leads to success as part of the group Students learn from each other (important partners in the learning process) through -Study groups -Improved attendance -Increased participation (anonymity and detachment reduced) -Seeking one another for assistance -Hold one another accountable Bring faculty together in more meaningful ways -Faculty collaboration greater as teachers and learners -Additional opportunities for faculty development -Increasingly supportive environment

6 6 Focus faculty and students on learning outcomes –Emphasis moves to teaching and learning -Student involvement increased -Student performance improves Provide a setting for community-based delivery of academic support –Advising –Career mentoring –Tutoring Offer a critical lens for examining the first-year experience –First-year students most at risk –Academic risk before declaring a major –Introduce the first-year seminar (see Shapiro & Levine)

7 7 Learning Communities: Common Dimensions Student collaboration Faculty collaboration Curricular coordination Shared setting Interactive pedagogy

8 8 Learning Communities for Special Populations General student population Under-prepared student population Academic interest – major focus Under-represented groups Honors Residential

9 9 Models of Learning Communities Student cohorts in larger classes Paired or clustered classes –Curricular theme –Planned curriculum –Taught as individual classes –Same students in both classes Team taught/coordinated studies –Content and assignments are completely integrated –Move between small and large groups at will

10 10 Learning Communities: Model One Student Cohorts in Larger Classes Programs in which a small cohort of students enrolls in larger classes that faculty do not necessarily coordinate. Intellectual connections and community- building often take place in an additional integrative seminar. + represents the student cohort

11 11 Learning Communities: Model One UTEP General Interest LCs Fall 2001: First offered Institution-wide Great diversity in level of integration of curriculum Links 3-4 classes: e.g., First- year Seminar, English and/or Math, and a large lecture class (History, Sociology, Anthropology) Students connect with one another and with UTEP 1 st -Year Seminar English Math Large lecture + represents the student cohort

12 12 UTEP General Interest LCs: Outcomes LC students report higher involvement than non- LC students when –Working on assignments that link ideas between classes –Using skills learned in one class for another class –Working with groups during class time – Discussing grades & assignments with instructors –Participating voluntarily in peer-led study groups –Forming new friendships with classmates –Contacting classmates outside of class

13 13 Learning Communities: Model Two Paired/Clustered Classes Programs of two or more classes linked thematically or by content, which a cohort of students takes together. The faculty often plan the program collaboratively. represents the student cohort

14 14 Learning Communities: Model Two UTEP Paired/Clustered Classes CircLES CircLES (Circles of Learning for Entering Students) 1996: Longest standing LC1996: Longest standing LC Required for all Science & Engineering pre-majorsRequired for all Science & Engineering pre-majors 4 classes linked4 classes linked Adds value to educationAdds value to education Creates connectionsCreates connections First-year seminar linked thematically to disciplineFirst-year seminar linked thematically to discipline (Science Revolution or (Science Revolution or Problem-solving Design) Problem-solving Design) English Intro to Sci or Engr First-year Seminar represents the student cohort Math

15 15 UTEP CircLES Program: Outcomes GPA 1 st semester GPA from 2.06 to 2.88 (1997-2003) Average number of years to graduation (STEM) Decreased from 6.6 to 5.1 (1997 - 2004) Retention –2 year rate: 55% to 70% (1997 – 2002) –3 year rate: 46% to 65% (1997 – 2001) One Year Retention by College –Science: 71% to 80% (1997 – 2003) –Engineering: 67% to 74% (1997 – 2003)

16 16 Learning Communities: Model Three Team Taught/Coordinated Studies Programs of coursework that faculty members team-teach. The coursework is embedded in an integrated program of study. represents the student cohort

17 17 Learning Communities: Model Three UTEP Team Taught/Coordinated Studies SmartStart Summer bridge program Open to all, targets high- risk provisionally- admitted students Integrates Seminar, English, and TLC classes 96% eligible to enroll Fall Important connections to UTEP and other students are made No outcomes available yet (new program) First-year Seminar English Tutoring & Learning Classes represents the student cohort

18 18 First-time First-year Students Learning Community Options Smart Start (Variety of Discipline-themed Seminars) Special Interest (Variety of Discipline-themed Engl/Span Seminars) General Interest (Variety of Discipline-themed Seminars) Major/Career Specific (Discipline-specific Seminars) Inter-American Program Developmental Reading Intensive Classes (e.g. History) CircLES Pre-Law Pre-education UTEP Learning Communities

19 19 Campus Engagement of UTEP Freshmen Compared to UT System, Doctoral Intensive, and National Data (NSSE, 2003) Level of academic challenge Active and collaborative learning Student interactions with faculty members Enriching educational experiences Supportive campus environment

20 20 Learning Communities: Challenges in Developing and Sustaining High-level institutional support Good leadership for program Resources (e.g., faculty development, incentives, etc.) Registration system Marketing Faculty reward system (P&T) Assessment & evaluation

21 21 Selected References Henscheid, Jean M. (ed). Integrating the First-year Experience: The Role of First-year Seminars in Learning Communities. (Monograph No. 39). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-year Experience and Students in Transition, 2004. Levine, Jodi H., (ed). Learning Communities: New Structures, New Partnerships for Learning (Monograph No. 26). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First- year Experience and Students in Transition, 1999. Natalicio, Diana S. and Maggy Smith. Building the Foundation for First-Year Student Success in Public, Urban Universities: A Case Study. In Upcraft, M. Lee, Gardner, Barefoot, & Associates (eds). Challenging & Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for Improving the First Year of College, (pp. 155-175). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2005.

22 22 Select References Shapiro, Nancy S. and Jodi H. Levine. Creating Learning Communities: A Practical Guide to Winning support, Organizing for Change, and Implementing Programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999. Smith, Maggy, et al. Building Integrated Learning Experiences at a Bi-National, Commuter Institution. In Jean M. Henscheid (ed),). Integrating the First-year Experience: The Role of First-year Seminars in Learning Communities (Monograph No. 39) (pp. 171- 186). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-year Experience and Students in Transition, 2004. Upcraft, M. Lee, John N. Gardner, Betsy O. Barefoot, & Associates (eds). Challenging & Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for Improving the First Year of College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2005.

23 23 More information Dr. Maggy Smith, DeanUniversity College, UTEP –msmith@utep.edumsmith@utep.edu –915.747.5151 Dr. Cathy Willermet, UTEP Learning Communities Coordinator –cwillermet@utep.educwillermet@utep.edu –915.747.5329


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